Achievement awards presentations to Company Members are the highlights of Inspection Dinners and other formal evenings at the Montauk Fire Department. Six times in its long history, and by unanimous vote of the three Chiefs at the time, the Department has honored some non-members who have shown special dedication and support. These select few have received their custom white Chief’s helmet and plaque as they officially became Honorary Chief.
According to the by-laws of the Montauk Fire District, a Chief’s term in office is one year (two by re-election). There is no term limit, however, for an Honorary Chief. Like a Supreme Court Justice, it is a proud appointment for life. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
Pete Chimpoukchis. As the owner of Salivar’s Restaurant at the docks from 1957 until he died in 2006, Pete was host to generations of Members of the Montauk Fire Department. In 1961, when the Department needed a new ambulance, Pete built a boat that would be raffled off to offset the cost. He was honored in 1989 when he was chosen St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal by the Montauk Friends of Erin, an organization very close to the MFD.
Edward V. Ecker Sr. Not everyone has a County Park named after them, but in 2003 “Edward Vincent Ecker Sr. County Park” on Navy Road was dedicated in memory of “Big Ed” Ecker “for his service as the East Hampton Town Supervisor, a 55-year member of the Montauk Fire Department, a charter member of the Ambulance Company and for his involvement in the Montauk community.” In 1984, he was chosen Grand Marshal of the M.F.O.E. Parade. According to his son (and former East Hampton Town Chief of Police) Ed Ecker Jr., “My Dad’s becoming Honorary Chief was a fitting accolade from his fellow fire fighters.”
Jimmy Hewitt. Andy Warhol, The Rolling Stones, Peter Beard, Lee Radziwill and MFD Officers and Members were all served at Jimmy Hewitt’s famous “Shagwong Tavern” in Montauk, established in 1969. Jimmy was always there to lend a helping hand when he was needed by the Department.
Richard Lewin. Richard has always shared his passion for new technology with the MFD Members, introducing the Department to digital photography, email, web surfing, etc. According to Tom Grenci, Jr., MFD Chief for 1997 and 1998, who presented Richard with his Honorary Chief Award, “Richard continues to serve the MFD and the Montauk Community by photographing and publicizing every ceremony and event.”
Russell MacGrotty. For many years, Russell MacGrotty owned MacGrotty Chevrolet in Flushing, one of Chevrolet’s top dealerships. His heart, however, was always with his beloved Montauk. Russell was a champion fisherman and Commodore of Montauk Yacht Club. In 1952 he had a Chevy station wagon custom lengthened to accommodate a stretcher, and donated the vehicle as the first ambulance at the MFD. Frank Tuma Sr., MFD Chief at the time, presented him with the Honorary Chief Award in 1952.
Ken Walles. Ken Walles owned the Oceanside (“Smiley Face”) Beach Resort from 1999 until 2016, where he often donated rooms to MFD out of town guests. He was always there with donations and help with the MFD’s Big Bucks Drawing, Seniors Dinner and more at the MFD. Chief Joe Lenahan presented Ken with his award in 2015.
The Montauk Fire Department Officers and Members will always hold a special place in their history for these Honorary Chiefs.